Living as a creature

Editorial for February 2012

The Bible begins with the solemn words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).   The Nicene Creed, which we pray at every Sunday Mass, begins: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.”  Since God created everything, an essential characteristic of everything we see and experience is that it is a creature: that is, it has its total being and reality from God.  To be a creature means to go from being nothing to being something.  So, there was a time when I did not exist.  God, therefore, is the cause of my existence; he is the cause and I am the effect.  Since every effect has a certain likeness to its cause, this means that there is a trace of God, or a likeness to God, in every created thing.  Each thing reflects the being and goodness of God in some way.  Man is said to be the “image” of God because he has intellect and will, although he is just a weak reflection of God’s infinite intelligence and goodness.  He is an imperfect image of the perfect God.

The truth about man is that he is a creature; he was made by God for a certain purpose; he did not make himself.  If I look at my body and see how wonderfully it is put together, I am amazed at how all the parts work together.  I look at my hands and my fingers, at my legs and feet, at my eyes and ears and mouth, marveling at how they function at a command from my mind and will.  My interior organs are other marvels; each has its own purpose and they all function together: my brain, lungs, heart pumping blood throughout my body, stomach, digestive tract, bladder, bowels and other parts.  What is the source of this complexity, and of this organization?   It must be the infinite intelligence and power of God as my Creator.

When I begin to reflect on these truths, it becomes obvious to me that I did not make myself.  I was generated by my parents, and they by their parents, going all the way back to the first parents, Adam and Eve, who were created by God.  God formed Adam from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7) and Eve was formed from a rib taken from Adam’s side (Gen. 2:22).   If it were not for the action of God in creation, the world would not be here, and I would not be here.  This means that as a creature, I am totally dependent on God for my existence.  In the past, most peoples have been aware, at least in some sense, that they were dependent on God.  Expression of that dependence is shown by acts of religion.  For this reason, we find religion in some form in all the peoples on the face of the earth.  It is only in modern times, beginning in the 17th century, that we see the rise of secularism, materialism, scientism and atheism.  These false philosophies deny the existence of God and anything spiritual; they claim that the material universe is the only thing that exists, having no cause; for them, matter is eternal—it has always existed.

When a man realizes what it means to be a creature, he immediately recognizes his dependence on God.  One of the results of the growing secularization of our society is that many Americans today do not know that they are totally dependent on God for their existence.  They are dependent on him, for being conceived by their parents, and for being born.  Not only that.  Since God is the source of all being, God’s original creative act continues to keep everything in existence.  If God did not preserve all things in existence, they would fall immediately into the nothingness from which they came.  The reason for this is that no finite being is the sufficient reason for its existence.  All finite beings “participate” in being; they share in being because it was given to them by the One Being, who is “being” by his very essence.  Only God is the reason for his own existence, since “to be” is his nature.  This was revealed to Moses at the burning bush when God revealed his name as “I am who I am” (Exod. 3:14).

Realizing what it means to be a creature helps a person to make acts of adoration and thanksgiving to the good God who made him.

Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ About Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ

Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ, is editor emeritus of HPR, having served as editor for over 30 years. He is the author of the best selling Fundamentals of Catholicism (three volumes) and of the popular introduction to the Scripture, Inside the Bible.


  1. Avatar Peter Rosario says:

    Blessed John Paul II makes the point our humanity is a gift from God. To see ourselves in this way, as gift, is to make us very aware of our dependence on God and the need for a deep and awesome appreciation for what is given by our Creator.